For the most part, companies are done releasing video games for 2009. It’s been a pretty good year with some pretty notable titles. Daily Toreador Tech Critic Tim Poon and I already spent some time discussing our favorite games of the year during our first “Level Up” podcast, available on DailyToreador.com and our gaming blog at www.dtexperiencepoints.wordpress.com.
We also came up with a holiday gift guide that can be found in our second episode of “Level Up,” or in text on the blog, so I won’t waste time repeating myself here.
Instead, I’m going to look forward. A lot of exciting games are set to be released next year (some having been pushed back from their original 2009 releases), not to mention the fact that both Sony and Microsoft intend to release motion controllers for their systems (hoping to capitalize on some of the Wii’s success). It might be best to start preparing now, lest you get overwhelmed.
“Mass Effect 2” – The RPG masterminds at Bioware blew me away with the fantasy epic “Dragon Age: Origins,” and that has me extremely excited to dive back into their science-fiction universe. “Mass Effect 2” promises to make vast gameplay improvements over the previous installment while continuing the epic story that they began.
“StarCraft” 2 – It may finally happen. Blizzard may finally release “StarCraft 2” after much speculation and many delays. As the original “StarCraft” is still being played today despite its age, there’s a lot of reason to get excited about this real-time strategy sequel.
“World of Warcraft: Cataclysm” – I confess, I don’t play “World of Warcraft,” but a very large number of you do. In this third expansion to the insanely popular online game, areas have been entirely redesigned to be, well, cataclysmic. “Cataclysm” also adds two new races, raises the level cap to 85, adds new race/class combinations and more. If you play “WoW,” there’s no reason not to be excited.
“God of War III” – For PlayStation fans, the “God of War” franchise has been the coup de grace of action gaming. Kratos is back and ready to dismember monsters in yet another gory entry of this Greek mythology inspired series.
“Splinter Cell: Conviction” – It’s been awhile since we’ve seen special agent Sam Fisher and his night vision goggles. In “Conviction,” Ubisoft has teased a much rougher, tougher agent who will go to any lengths to get the job done. This could mean less being sneaky and more acting like Jack Bauer.
“Final Fantasy XIII” – While Japanese gamers will get their “Final Fantasy” fix by the end of 2009, English-speaking territories won’t experience the fantasy adventure until 2010. The game promises to be long and very story-driven, which is exactly what fans want.
“Halo: Reach” – Another year, another “Halo” game. Not much is known about this spin-off – a trailer will debut at Spike’s Video Game Awards on December 12th – but the safe assumption is that it concerns the fall of Reach, the last planet that stands between the Covenant and Earth. I’m hoping for some significant changes to the “Halo” formula (maybe something like squad gameplay?), but most people will probably be satisfied with more of the same.
“Bioshock 2” – The original “Bioshock” blew gamers away with a deep, philosophical story that featured a plot twist that people still talk about. It’s certainly not an easy game to follow up with a sequel, so many people are watching this with as much apprehension as excitement. If the folks at 2K can do this game right, though, it could be one of the best games of the year.
“Dead Rising 2” – Zombies have been big lately. Heck, this year marked the first annual Texas Tech “Zombie Walk.” If you would rather mow down zombies than walk with them, though, the sequel to “Dead Rising” aims to satisfy, putting a ridiculous number of undead enemies on-screen at once for you to slaughter in a huge variety of ways with many different weapons.
“Castlevania: Lords of Shadow” – 3D “Castlevania” games don’t exactly have a history of being stellar. They’ve never lived up to the high standards that their two dimensional brethren have set. However, for “Lords of Shadow,” Konami has put Hideo Kojima, creator of “Metal Gear Solid,” on the project. They’ve also secured the voices of Patrick Stuart, Jason Isaacs and other big names to help tell a story that looks both dark and interesting. This game could shape up to be an extremely successful reboot of the franchise, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
“Heavy Rain” – This PlayStation 3 exclusive is looking to take storytelling in video games to a whole new level, and it may actually succeed. An adventure game from the developers of “Indigo Prophecy,” “Heavy Rain” is all about the characters. They claim that members of the ensemble case live and die entirely based on your actions, and the story will continue regardless. Definitely one to watch.
“Alan Wake” – The original studio behind “Max Payne,” Remedy Entertainment, has been cooking up this new psychological action thriller for a long time. Reportedly inspired by the works of Steven King, and the television shows “Twin Peaks” and “Lost,” the story in this third person shooter could end up being quite the mind trip.
“Red Dead Redemption” – It doesn’t look as if we’ll be getting “Grand Theft Auto V” in 2010, but “Rockstar” is at least continuing its open-world western franchcise, which will hopefully make the wait for a new “GTA” easier. Like those games, “Red Dead Redemption” features sandbox style gameplay, only you get around on horses rather than stolen vehicles. Fans of westerns or open-world gameplay should definitely keep their eye on this game.
“Super Mario Galaxy 2” – Originally intended to be “Mario Galaxy Plus,” merely adding in some levels that didn’t quite make it into the original game, Nintendo is now giving us a full-fledged sequel. The first “Galaxy” was fantastic and a serious Game of the Year contender. Hopefully the sequel will follow suit.
“Metroid: Other M” – Now that the “Metroid Prime” trilogy of first-person adventures is done (at least for now), Nintendo has teamed up with Tecmo, the developers behind the “Ninja Gaiden” games, to help them create the next science-fiction action masterpiece. It will be extremely interesting to see how the collaboration pans out, but there is a lot of talent at those two studios.
“Max Payne 3” – While the “Max Payne” creators at Remedy and original writer Sam Lake aren’t involved, people are still excited to see what Rockstar does with “Max Payne 3.” Set twelve years after “Max Payne 2,” Max is supposedly more “world-weary and cynical than ever,” but I’m sure he’ll still be able to slow down time, “Matrix” style.
“Dark Void” – This upcoming game from Capcom mixes ground combat with jetpack fueled air combat. The story – involving the Bermuda Triangle and Nikola Tesla and aliens – has already caught the eye of Brad Pitt and his production company, Plan B Entertainment, who have purchased the film rights and intend to bring it to the big screen. Hopefully the video game will deserve such a treatment.
There are a ton more games I could talk about here, including “MAG,” “No More Heroes 2,” “Bayonetta,” “Dante’s Inferno,” “Lost Planet 2,” “Red Steel 2,” “Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker,” “Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands” and “Star Wars: The Old Republic.”
And that’s not even taking into account any surprise releases that may be announced in the near future. 2010 is shaping up to be a great year for gamers. Start saving money now.